Ear Piercing and Stretching Guide
What gauge to start stretching your ears at?
A great question that you will need to know when starting to stretch your ears is what size should your first stretch be. For the majority of people, either 16 gauge or 14 gauge is a good starting point if you have only worn regular earrings.
16 gauge is a good starting point if you never wear earrings or if you have recently had them pierced and they are just healed up. 14 gauge is a good size to start if you have worn regular earrings daily for a long time. The difference is pretty small between the 2 sizes, but you for sure don't want to push it too hard on your 1st stretch (since your ears have never been stretched before).
What size can I stretch up to without permanent damage?
There are a lot of different opinions on this topic, but the majority of professionals in the body modification industry recommend never going any larger than 2 - 0 gauge if you want your ears to totally close up where you can't see through them. Keep in mind though that everyone's anatomy is different, but the majority of people will be able to take their plugs out at 2 -0 gauge and your lobes will look normal after a 2 - 3 months of closing up.
There are also other factors that will affect the permanency of your size. One of the biggest factors is if you have stretched too fast and skipped sizes. When you skip sizes and stretch too fast then it actually will do more ripping of your skin than actual stretching, so this can make your holes much larger and more permanent in the long run. To optimize your chances of having normal looking lobes if you decide to take them out, then you will want to make sure not to skip sizes and wait at least a full month between each stretch.
If you have stretched to a really large size and decide that it is not for you, then there is always the option of surgery. Lobe reversal has become pretty popular these days so that is always an option to consider if you have stretched really large and want your lobes to look like the average person's.
How long should I wait between each stretch?
Many people make the mistake of stretching too fast which can cause some long term damage to your lobes. Most professionals recommend waiting at least a full month between each stretch. A full month is generally enough to give your last stretch time to heal, and also to help your lobes loosen up a bit for the next stretch. The slower you go, the nicer your lobes will be in the long run though, so waiting even longer than a month is highly recommended. Even though the temptation is hard to resist sometimes when you are ready to stretch, it's always best to give it some time, you will thank yourself in the long run.
All about tapers and how to use a taper to stretch your ears
Tapers are a great way to begin your ear stretching journey. A taper is a straight piece either steel or acrylic that is small on one side and larger on the other. When you insert a taper it will increase the size of your piercing. The 1st thing you will need to know about tapers is what the difference is between the various styles and which to choose.
Acrylic tapers are an economy style of tapers that are pretty popular since they are the least expensive. They will get the job done, but acrylic can never be sterilized and it is a bit harder to get through than steel is. If you are on a budget then acrylic is ok, but its highly recommended to use steel tapers for stretching.
Basic Steel Tapers
Basic steel tapers are a good option for those who are on a budget but looking for better quality than acrylic. These tapers can be totally autoclaved and sterilized for a safe and clean stretch. Steel tapers will slide through much easier than acrylic tapers and they are much better quality. The only problem with these is that they have a flat back, so when doing the insertion of your plugs, you will have to have a really steady hand to get them through following the taper.
Concave Steel Tapers (Best to use)
Concave tapers are the best and highest quality tapers to use. Like the basic steel tapers, they can be totally autoclaved and sterilized for a safe and clean stretch. They also are a bit longer in the stretchable area so they aren't as blunt on your piercing when pushing it through. And the best thing about the concave tapers, is that they have a concave back (an indention on the end of the taper) so that the plugs actually fit inside of the taper. This is what makes them just perfect; you can insert your taper, put the plug into the back of the taper, and follow through for an extremely easy stretch. You don't have to keep your hand steady or anything, just insert the taper and the plug is ready for an easy follow through. These are usually a little more expensive, but for the extra few dollars it's well worth it.
So you've decided on your taper, now it's time for the stretch
So once you have decided on what style of taper you want to use, the next part is getting the stretch done. The 1st thing you will need will be a lubricant to use on your taper. Lubricant will make the taper super slick so it will slide through really easy. We recommend using a sterile lubricant like surgilube:
Lube up your ears and also the taper. Then just insert the taper all the way up to the base of the bigger side. If it takes you a few minutes to get it through it is ok, you don't have to rush it. Once it is through then just take your plugs and follow through after the taper.
How to stretch your ears with the tape wrapping method
Once you get to a larger size (generally around 0 gauge) then using the tape wrapping method is a good option to use for stretching and it is the method almost everyone uses over 1 inch. The way that the tape wrapping method works is you take a set of plugs of your current size and do 2-3 wraps of tape around your plugs to slowly increase the size of your piercing. It's highly recommended to use a set of single flare tunnels for each size you use this method with since you can wrap the tape around your plugs and tuck the excess into the back of the tunnels. (See picture below) What's good about the take wrapping method is that you can really take your time and slowly increase the size of your piercing without the healing issues of tapers. Just do 2-3 wraps every week and generally after about 1-2 months you will be up to the next size. It's a lot slower than using tapers but it is a really efficient and gradual way to stretch with minimal risk. There are 2 main types of tape that are the best to use.
PTFE is a great and inexpensive tape that you can use to stretch. The good things about it is that it is very good in price, non-adhesive so it only sticks to itself, super thin so you can slowly increase your size, and it doesn't irritate your ears like some tapes do (such as electric tape). It is about ½" in width so it fits well on almost all plugs under 1 inch.
Bondage tape is another great tape to use for the tape wrapping method. The good things about bondage tape is that it is self-adhesive ( so it doesn't stick to your skin, hair, clothes, etc), it is 2 inches wide so it fits on any wearable area of plugs (even really big wearable areas that are often in larger sizes), and it is smooth and easy on your skin. Though it is more expensive than PTFE tape, it is highly recommended.
Will stretching too fast and skipping sizes damage my ears?
Stretching your ears too fast and skipping sizes is a common problem that can do some serious damage to your piercings. When you skip sizes and stretch too fast you really are doing more ripping of your skin than actual stretching. Human skin only has a certain elasticity so going too big and too fast is enough to cause ripping and tearing of your skin. It's highly recommended to wait at least a full month between each stretch and to never skip sizes so your ears will have minimal chances for long term problems. Also the slower you go, the thicker and healthier your ears will be in the long run (which is really important if you plan on going to a large size).
What is a blowout and how to fix it?
Blowouts are another common problem that is generally caused by stretching too fast or skipping sizes. The way this problem occurs is when the fistula (inside of your piercing) is actually forced out through the back of the piercing. A blowout is a small flap of skin that will hang over the edge of your plugs. Though it is not generally too noticeable if it occurs on the back of your ears, it can limit the type of plugs you wear and you will generally need to wear plugs with a bigger wearable area (to allow room for the blowout). If you skip sizes or go to fast on a blowout that has already occurred then it will often continue to get bigger and bigger.
The best way to help get rid of a blowout is to take your plugs out immediately after you notice it and downsize 2-3 sizes smaller so your piercing will start to heal itself. Though it is never 100% guaranteed that it will go away, the chances are pretty good of it going back to normal if you downsize immediately after it happens. If you leave the blowout to heal up without downsizing though, then it will generally heal up for good that way and become permanent. There are many ways people have tried getting rid of healed blowouts, but the most common way is to downsize and to use oils like jojoba to help moisturize and soften up your skin. There is also the option of getting it surgically removed which is highly recommended if you have the funds to do so.
Ear funk, the causes and how to fix it?
Once your ears start to get stretched, a common problem that everyone has is the issue of "ear funk". Ear funk is essentially the dead skin cells of the inside of your ears being trapped in the inside of your fistula (the skin inside of your piercing). Most of the dust in your own home is actually from dead skin cells that shed off of your body, ear funk is from the same thing. When you wear plugs for several days, the dead skin cells start to build up on your jewelry and when you remove the plugs they can be super gross. The way to get rid of this issue is either to wash out your ears daily in the shower or to just wear organic plugs. Organic plugs are porous so they soak up all of that ear funk and keep your ears dry and smelling fresh.
Other Common Question
How to insert double flare plugs
Many people have the problem of not being able to fit in their double flare plugs if they have never worn them before. A double flared plug is a plug that has flares on both ends (the flares are actually slightly larger than the actual center). Double flare plugs are totally fine to wear but they can sometimes be hard to get in (especially on sizes under 0 gauge). There are several tips on getting them in that will make it much easier. The 1st thing to help with getting them in is to use lubrication. Any water based lubricant will help to get them in and out easily. Also you will want to insert them at an angle. If you try to force them through straight into your ears then it will be much harder for them to fit through. Inserting them at a slight angle gives them enough leverage to pop through.
On sizes under 0 gauge however, they will often require you to stretch slightly larger to be able to fit them through. The larger you stretch, the easier double flares will be able to get in, so the smaller sizes are a lot harder to get through. If you are trying to fit a set of double flares in that are under 0 gauge then it's good to try doing a little tape wrapping (see info on the tape wrapping method above) to help loosen up your ears a bit and get the plugs in.
Using jojoba oil to moisturize your piercing and care for organic plugs
Jojoba oil is an all-around great product. Its best uses are to soften skin, reduce scar tissue, thicken lobes, and to moisturize. By massaging jojoba oil daily on your lobes, it helps to thicken them up over time and to keep them healthy. It also helps to reduce the size of blowouts over time if massaged daily. Jojoba is great for organic jewelry as well, by using it to moisturize your wood or buffalo horn/bone plugs, it helps to keep them protected for long term use.
How to care for organic plugs and body jewelry
Organic plugs are pieces that are made from a living thing such as wood, buffalo horn & bone, coral, shell, etc. Organics generally don't require much more maintenance then the average set of plugs though. Materials such as wood will expand and contract as they get wet though so to avoid cracks and swelling, it's for sure best to keep them as dry as possible. If you are purchasing a set of organic plugs that isn't super expensive, then just wear them and don't worry about if they wet or not. But if you have a nice set that you want to keep for years then it's highly recommended to keep them as dry as possible. Also organic pieces that have inlays or where multiple materials are used (such as multiple inlayed woods), then you for sure want to keep them dry to avoid breakage or cracking.
It's also really good to use jojoba oil on organic jewelry to keep the pieces looking fresh and polished. All you need to do is take a small drop onto your fingers and rub the jojoba oil into the plugs and they will look like a fresh new pair.
Gauges vs. Plugs which word is correct?
The topic of gauges vs. plugs is one of the biggest debates of the body modification industry. We thought it would be easier to make a video on the topic so here is Chris talking the issue.
I think I have an infection, what do I do?
If you are noticing issues such as extreme swelling, redness, discharge, itching, and hotness then you more than likely have an infection. An infection can be a serious problem so it's best to take care of it as soon as possible. If you have recently stretched your ears and are having all of the above problems then it's for sure best to downsize and let your ears get back to normal. Also wearing jewelry like steel or glass is the best to wear with an irritated piercing (these materials will minimize your risk of prolonging the infection). If you feel like it's getting too much or is a serious problem then it is best to consult a local doctor and have it checked out. If you let it go for a long time then you can have some serious problems so make sure to have it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.